________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000

cover Being With Henry.

Martha Brooks.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999.
173 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 0-88899-377-3.

Subject Headings:
Self-acceptance-Juvenile fiction.
Intergenerational relations-Juvenile fiction.
Family-Juvenile fiction.
Family violence-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 6-9 /Ages 11-14.
Review by Jennifer L. Branch.

*** /4


His roses are dark pink, bluish red, pale yellow, deep peach. Their sweet scent just about takes over his entire back yard. Henry always cuts a few and brings them into the house and sets them in a blue glass jar on the kitchen counter. These days he whistles or hums tunelessly, works a little bit in the garden, or just sits contentedly and rests and watches the summer sun and the rain with equal pleasure. Something is happening to him. Laker suspects it's Heron Lake. Now maybe something else has been added.

"So who's this Mary?" he asks in a teasing tone.

"M-E-R-R-Y, as in Christmas," Henry says, "And don't go reading romance into this. She's just a friend. And a very good one."

"Henry," Laker laughs on his way to the shower. "Sometimes you kill me."

Laker, almost 17, arrives in Bemidji with a little bit of money in his pocket on a bus from Duluth. His mother has kicked him out of the house because he doesn't get along with his latest stepfather. For three weeks, Laker lives on the streets, spends time in the local public library, and begs for spare change. One day an old man passes by and gives Laker a handful of change. The octogenarian leaves only to return a few minutes later as a passenger in a car. The old man rolls down the window and asks the question that will change Laker's life - "Do you do yard work?"

And so begins Laker's life with Henry Olsen who, recently widowed, lives alone. Laker moves into Henry's house and does odd jobs for Henry. As the relationship develops, Laker decides to stay with Henry and finds a job working at a lumber mill. But being with Henry isn't going to be easy for Laker. Henry's daughter, Vera Lynne, is overprotective of Henry and distrusts Laker.

In the fall of the year, Laker decides to stay in Bemidji with Henry and to return to high school. Laker does well in school, forms a relationship with Henry's granddaughter, Charlene, and renews contact with his mother who has moved to Winnipeg. As summer approaches, Henry begins reminiscing about his cabin on Heron Lake in Manitoba. It has been several years since Henry has been able to get to the cabin. Henry, Laker and Charlene decide to make a two-week trip to the cabin. It will be an important trip for all three of them, but especially for Laker.

This is a moving story of a young man's journey from a painful past to a hopeful future. It deals with the concept of family as people who care for each other and are not necessarily related. It also brings together fleeting childhood memories and the role of coincidence in finding out about the past.


Jennifer L. Branch is a PhD candidate and Instructor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364